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Alicia Farrow

MA work

Sewing Socialism: Negotiated Clothing Practices in the German Democratic Republic

East German women are well known to have sewn many of their own clothes, despite limited access to suitable fabrics and sewing machines. The purpose of this research is to determine what drove them, how they achieved it, and to explore the wider significance of these practices within the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The timely calls for the stories of ordinary East Germans to be told have led the literature on the GDR to a shift in focus, from the nature of power relations and reasons behind the GDR’s eventual collapse, to a questioning of the political regime’s relatively peaceful longevity. This paper contributes to this latter discussion by demonstrating how everyday, individual practices, such as home sewing, can be used as a framework for locating sites of subtle and constant negotiation between state and citizen. Home sewn clothing practices, built on embodied female knowledge and commodities that passed down from generation to generation, granted the public sphere a form of stability in the face of consumer dissatisfaction, and became a unique site of negotiation over female agency and identity. By giving voice to the everyday experiences of East German women and through contrasting existing items of home sewn clothing with fashion related print material from the public sphere, this research demonstrates how this ‘unseen’ practice of domestic labour blurred the boundaries between production and consumption, and between work and leisure in the socialist state.


  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2017

  • My research interests are based around identity, the body, power dynamics, gender, fashion and technology. My MA dissertation explores subjectivity and individual creativity within the public political sphere, focussing specifically on fashion and dress. 

    I am eager to bring object based research to public audiences through exhibitions, events and the written word and have worked towards this aim throughout my studies at the Royal College of Art.
  • Degrees

  • BA Theatre: Design for Performance, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London, 2006
  • Experience

  • Exhibition assistant, V&A Musuem, London, 2016–17 (Internship); Independent researcher, Hackney Heritage, 2015 (Internship); OPA administrative assistant, V&A Museum, 2017; Exhibition coordinator, World Development Movement, 2008 (Internship); Research department volunteer, V&A Museum, 2015; Assistant to Senior curator, V&A Museum, 2015 (Internship)